The Centro de Portugal has different personalities- the coast, the cities, and the natural areas popular for outdoor adventures and sports. This region is the heart of Portugal and is known for its beaches, Roman ruins, walled towns, castles and fortresses, as well as the mountains which feature the highest point on the mainland. The mountains also make Beiras-Centro a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts, while the Serra da Estrela Natural Park, Portugal’s largest protected area, is a haven for hikers and birdwatchers.
The city of Coimbra is home to Portugal’s oldest university. The city of Aveiro is famous for an immense lagoon called the Ria that sits at its center and its canals that serve as streets. The inland cities of Guarda and Viseu are dominated by traditional stone architecture. The plains of the Beiras region form a kind of transitional zone between north and south Portugal, marked by the village of Monsanto, whose high perch enabled it to stand against a Roman invasion in the second century.
- View the baroque library at Coimbra University
- Discover the Serra da Lousã„ mountains
- Climb up to Penedos de Gois by jeep
- Lodge at one of seven fine “Pousada” country inn
- Go paragliding in Linhares
- Consider snow skiing, winter or summer, at Manteigas
- Follow three wine routes: the Dao, the Beira Interior, and the Bairrada
- Gamble at the Casino at Figueira da Foz
- Ride on a free bicycle through the town of Aveiro
Along this region’s border with Spain are a myriad of fortresses and castles that once protected the country from its many invaders. Twelve towns full of history dot the countryside. The cities of Aveiro, Viseu and Guarda each has excellent museums to interpret this region’s role in Portugal’s long history. Towns such as Almeida, Castelo Rodrigo and Castelo Mendo also played important roles.
The Serra da Estrela Natural Park is the largest protected area in Portugal and an excellent place for family hiking, bird watching, and outdoor sports. Lagoa da Torre is a favorite stopping off point for making a circular hike around the mountain range. Glacial lakes and spring waters throughout make for interesting water sports opportunities. In winter, snowboarding, snowmobiling, sleigh rides or skiing the runs in Serra da Estrela Natural Park are popular activities with visitors. However, skiing and snowboarding can be practiced even in warm weather, at an artificial slope in Manteigas. Hiking is also popular in Serra do Caramulo. The Buçaco Forest is home to an isolated monastic retreat, now containing a vast botanical garden. On foot or by jeep, journey along one of the many routes of discovery of the Serra da Lousã Mountains.
SPOTLIGHT ON LOCAL FOOD AND DRINK
_ Soft or cured cheeses from Serra da Estrela, Castelo Branco, Rabaçal
_ Mountain honey
Chanfana, goat cooked in red wine
_ Bairrada, suckling pig
_ smoked meats
_ ovos moles of Aveiro’, a richand soft egg pastry
_ 'folares’, an Easter pastry
_ Pão de Ló de Ovar’, sponge cake